App that fills a need for medications delivery
Inspired by a need in the marketplace, PharmaGo connects South Africans with their local, small pharmacy to make deliveries of medication faster and more convenient for users. By Elna Schütz
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
When a relative struggled to access the medicine they needed outside business hours, Raees Carim, the founder of the PharmaGo app, was inspired.
The app has been in development since 2019. Carim says: “Obviously the consumer wants medication delivered as soon as possible, and we found that all the giants can’t facilitate that and the local pharmacies don’t have the infrastructure to do so.”
PharmaGo is focusing particularly on local or smaller-scale pharmacies, which Carim says have been more responsive than larger groups. The app digitises the process of connecting the pharmacy with customers, either using existing pharmacy delivery drivers or bringing in a driver for them.
One of the pharmacists working with the app, Melissa Rudman of Montana Pharmacy, says it has given the business an online presence and that it has had a strong success rate in the uptake of app orders.
“This allows us to service customers who do not want to come into the pharmacy or simply need the convenience of getting their items delivered,” Rudman explains.
She says that though it was easy for them to get integrated with the PharmaGo systems, the staff may forget to check this during busy in-store peaks.
Carim’s team, however, has set up notifications to counteract this.
Unlike some other delivery apps, PharmaGo has a fairly large reach, allowing delivery of up to 50km, which could be particularly useful for consumers outside city centres. Carim says this is not a main strategy for PharmaGo, but that it is definitely a part of its thinking.
“What we wanted [was that] no one should feel out of reach from the app. And if you are not in the area of the local pharmacy at the moment, you are still able to get your medication.”
Carim admits, “PharmaGo was not really meant for widespread use”. He says that the project was initially focused purely on creating the structure and offering it to pharmacies, but the uptake since the launch in March has pleasantly surprised him.
“I think the appetite for this type of app is quite good, especially looking at how we are moving more into an online space.”
Carim says the group is currently focused on growth more than profit, and building a financial model based on how this unfolds. “The one thing that I’ve read is if you have a startup and you’re looking [towards] for profit, then you’re running a small business and not a startup, so we’re definitely looking for growth at this point.”
He says they are able to do this because, beyond the initial investment of app development costs, the daily costs are minimal.
The general expenses are balanced out by a commission on items charged to the pharmacies and the service fee consumers pay in lieu of delivery costs. The group hopes to scale the app not only to more pharmacies but into other product offerings that consumers want quickly, particularly in the health, wellness and beauty space. Carim is also considering partnering with medical aids for scheduled monthly delivery of chronic medication.
“There’s a lot of scope in the pharmacy space. It’s just the routes that we’re going to take over the next few months that will be determined by the uptake.”
While Carim makes it clear that delivery of medications isn’t always easily accessible, several pharmacy chains do offer special services for patients on chronic medication.
PharmaGo does have competition from the existing industry. Dis-Chem customers can pick up their medications pre-packed and its website does mention that delivery is possible.
With the Clicks free Repeat Prescription Service, customers can get their medication delivered to their door or receive monthly SMS reminders and priority queuing when collecting in store. Clicks also offers free chronic medication delivery via its Pharmacy courier service, Clicks Direct Medicine.
With the Clicks app you can submit scripts on the go, check your script history and how many repeats you have remaining. Customers ordering OTC medication online and on the app also receive priority queuing when collecting in-store.
A new innovative collection service allows shoppers to collect their medication in a locker at selected Clicks stores.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.